Halverson Construction

SPRINGFIELD FIRM GROWS FROM STARTUP TO ONE OF THE LEADING BRIDGE BUILDERS IN ILLINOIS

Feb 25, 2011

Reliable, productive Komatsu equipment

History is a funny thing. Back in 1978, if Vern Halverson had gotten the promotion to Division Boss for S.J. Groves & Sons, there may never have been a Halverson Construction Co. But the job went to someone else, and not long after that, S.J. Groves closed its Springfield, Ill., division. Vern, who’d been traveling throughout the Midwest with the company for more than 17 years as an engineer, superintendent and project manager, decided he wanted to stay in Springfield, so rather than take a new position and move, he decided to start his own construction company.

“When I started Halverson Construction, the company consisted of my wife Mary and me,” Vern recalled. “We didn’t have any equipment or employees. Our office was the basement of our house. Our first job was repairing a bridge deck in Stark County. I hired a carpenter/helper to work with me. We finished that up and did a couple of other small jobs before getting what I considered a big job at the time, putting overlays on 10 bridges north of Peoria. I think that’s when I knew we were going to make it. Since then, we’ve grown steadily.”

Today, Halverson Construction is one of Illinois’ leading bridge builders, employing about 50 people full time, year around, and several hundred more seasonally. The company also does earthwork and roads and has a commercial division that builds structures such as the award-winning restoration of Union Station in Springfield. However, bridge building and bridge rehab work remain its specialty.

“That’s what we know the best and like the best,” said Vern’s son, Steve Halverson, who is President of Halverson Construction (Vern currently serves as Chairman of the Board and Mary is Vice President). “It’s the only thing we travel for. We’ll do other projects in and around Springfield, but we’ll build bridges all across the state, as well as in neighboring states.”

Halverson Construction works on about 15 to 20 bridges per year. Vern estimates the company has done several hundred during the past 30 years. “I think we’ve made major repairs on almost every bridge across the Illinois River from Hardin (just north of St. Louis) to Morris (southwest of Chicago). Through the years, we’ve also done an extensive amount of work on Mississippi River bridges.”

Challenging jobs are a specialty

While Halverson will do any type of bridge work, from small overlay jobs to new construction of very large spans, the company is probably best-known for its ability to successfully complete difficult bridge projects. Jobs that have big lifts, require creative engineering or need to be done in a tight time frame — those are tailor-made for Halverson Construction.

“I wouldn’t say we target those hard-to-do jobs, but we don’t shy away from them either,” said Chief Estimator Larry Antonacci. “We end up getting many of them because many contractors aren’t willing to take on the risk associated with doing the more complex projects. We, on the other hand, enjoy challenging jobs that require innovation to complete on time and on budget. We believe that’s where we excel.”

“No job ever goes exactly as planned,” added Engineer-Estimator Kyle Zellers, who is also Vern Halverson’s grandson. “To do the tough jobs, we have to be flexible and be able to adjust on the fly. With six civil engineers, as well as field personnel with years and years of experience, we have a great deal of professional expertise on staff. Their talents are what enable us to find ways to complete difficult jobs on time and on budget.”

Memorable projects

Halverson Construction’s work on challenging projects has resulted in numerous award-winning bridges through the years. One such job was the McKinley Bridge over the Mississippi that connects northern St. Louis with Illinois Route 3 in Venice, Ill. Halverson’s work included approach spans on both sides of the river, rehab of the existing truss spans and adding cantilevered bicycle lanes on the outside of the truss. Construction started in 2005 and was completed last year.

“Challenges included working with numerous railroads, coordinating subs and getting the work done on time,” said Zellers. “The bike path was added after the original bid. We had a specific limited period during which we could close the bridge to complete the work. There were also difficulties dealing with river stages on the Mississippi. But those are the kinds of things we try to take in stride and still give the project owner the job he wants.”

Another memorable job for Halverson crews was replacement of the Norfolk & Southern Railway Bridge over the Wabash River in Logansport, Ind. Finalized over a Fourth-of-July weekend, the project included an extensive false-work system to roll out the old three-span structure and roll in the new four-span structure using hydraulic cylinders designed by Halverson personnel.

“We’re capable of doing just about anything and everything that it takes to build or rehab a bridge, and we prefer to do as much as possible ourselves,” said Antonacci. “It allows us to control the project better.”

Reliable, productive equipment

To help it complete quality projects in a timely, efficient manner, Halverson Construction uses Komatsu equipment from Roland Machinery. “On our bridges, we use Komatsu excavators for demolition and for digging out foundations,” said Zellers. “We have one hooked up to a sheet-pile driver attachment for coffer dams and such.

“We also use them to move dirt,” he added. “We do a lot of jobs around town that aren’t bridge-related and most of them require hydraulic excavators. Many of our bridge jobs also have earthwork associated with them. All in all, we move a fairly significant amount of material during the course of a year.”

Halverson owns a Komatsu PC200, PC300 and PC400 and rents other equipment as needed. The company also owns a D65 dozer.

“Our Komatsu machines have given us excellent service,” acknowledged Vern. “They’ve been productive, reliable and have lasted a long time. Maintenance has also been minimal. It’s been very effective equipment for us. We take it to a job and it works. That’s what we want.”

“We like to own machines if we’re going to have a long-term use for them, but we also rent a significant amount of equipment,” noted Zellers. “Our Roland Sales Rep Chris Ingram does a good job of getting us what we need for rental or purchase, and Roland charges a fair price.”

“Roland has been a good partner for many years,” added Vern. “They carry good equipment and they stand behind it, which is important. We have our own very capable mechanics so we do our own maintenance intervals and most of the repairs, but any time we’ve needed Roland’s help, they’ve provided excellent service.”

Optimistic about what lies ahead

Although Vern Halverson doesn’t get out on individual jobs as frequently as he once did, he still comes to work every day and is actively involved in all major decisions. Mary Halverson stays involved in the daily office activities.

“This is a family business and it’s been our life’s work,” said Vern. “I was 49 when I started the company and it’s grown to be much more than I originally expected it would be. I’m 80 years old, but I still think I have something to offer, and more important, I still enjoy what I do.

“I love this industry and I love driving over bridges we’ve worked on,” he explained. “I think that’s true for everybody who works here — from the carpenter to the foreman to the project manager to the estimator. I think we all believe bridges are beautiful as well as functional, and we all take a great deal of pride in what we do.”

As for the future, Halverson Construction plans to continue doing what it’s always done.

“We’ve found our niche,” said Steve Halverson. “We’ll continue to add services as they make sense for us, but I think we’ll always be bridge builders first and foremost. There are certainly plenty of bridges that need work. As long as we maintain our reputation as a ‘can-do’ company that does quality work, we’re optimistic about what lies ahead for Halverson Construction.”